The following information is provided by CMU Law Center Director, Prof. John Meixner.

As a CMU Alumni and former student of Prof. Meixner, I thank him for all he has done for me and the thousands of CMU Students who he has mentored. Thank You, Prof Meixner.

Planning a Pre-Law Curriculum?

What do law schools look for in applicants?

CMU Pre-Law Prep Program

Bovee UC 215
(989) 774-6617

The CMU Law Professions Center is unique as an undergraduate service. Such centers do not exist on most campuses, yet CMU has had the Law Center for almost 30 years. Its primary purpose is to advise and assist students in the preparation for careers in law.

The CMU Law Center provides the following services:
· Pre-Law Advising
· Assistance in preparing law school applications
· Preparation workshops for the LSAT
· Practice LSATs
· Law school bulletins, newsletters, etc.
· Recent news from LSAC (Law School Admission Council)
· Networking with other pre-law students (through Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity)

Planning a Pre-Law Curriculum

Undergraduate students are often surprised to learn that there is no specific major or minor required for most careers in law or for entry into law school. What is required is that the student develop certain basic skills which are essential to the practice of law. Most law school officials and pre-law advisors agree that there are three attributes which are most important. They are:

I. Skill in comprehension and use of language

Language is a lawyer’s working tool. In seeking to convince, in drafting legal instruments and legislation, in oral and written arguments, he or she must have the capacity to communicate to strangers with clarity, precision and persuasiveness. He or she must be able to comprehend with precision the meaning of others. One of the common complaints of law school professors is that beginning law students cannot write. After four years of college, students sometimes cannot write an ordinary declarative sentence. There are reasons: large classes, objective exams, non-intellectual courses, etc. But in law school and as a lawyer, you need to be able to write in essay form with logic, clarity, precision, and persuasiveness. Therefore, courses which develop cognitive and expressive skills by requiring extensive writing are extremely good preparation for any career, but especially for a legal career.

II. Critical understanding of and interest in human institutions and values

Lawyers are a powerful force in the shaping and operation of institutions and values. They are instrumental in establishing the policies which guide society. Therefore, courses which develop an awareness of social concerns by exposing the student to history, ethical, and societal issues are extremely beneficial for a career in law.

III. Ability in logical and analytical reasoning

An important part of the lawyer’s work is problem solving. You have a problem: a city school board, a court, or a dispute between two people. Creative, workable solutions must be found. The difference, often times, between a top attorney and mediocre one is the ability of the former to come up with a workable solution – a creative answer. Creative thinking requires the development of skills in deductive and inductive reasoning, reasoning by analogy, and critical analysis in the use of facts and legal principles. Therefore, courses which prepare a student in the reasoning process by exposing the student to concepts of logic, persuasion, research and writing serve as an excellent preparation for any career, but especially for a legal career.

Consequently, a pre-law student has a wide choice of undergraduate majors, minors, and electives. No one set of courses is required for law school, and no one set is the best. Various areas of study are beneficial for pre-law study, with an overall emphasis on a well-rounded, rather than a narrow and specialized, education. Traditionally, courses in economics, English, history, philosophy, political science, and business have been viewed as solid preparation for law school.
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What do Law Schools Look for in Applicants?

In general, a law school admissions committee looks at two things first: undergraduate grades and the LSAT score. These two factors are the main ones which will determine your chances of acceptance at most law schools. Also important are recommendations, extracurricular activities, special talents, etc., but grades and the LSAT are the prime factors. So whatever program you choose in college, it is important that you strive for good grades. If you are a bit slow in learning, then study hard every day. Tears won’t erase poor grades when you apply to law school.
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The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is a three and one-half hour aptitude test designed to predict how well a pre-law student will do in law school. It tests the examinee in reading comprehension and logical and analytical reasoning, and is required by virtually every law school in North America. The test may be taken more than once, and the scores received may be treated in various ways depending on the law school. The LSAT is administered nationally four times per year at many sites, including the CMU testing center. Information concerning the LSAT may be obtained from the Law Center, or by visiting
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Year-by-Year Checklist for the Pre-Law Student

Freshman Year

 Consult with the Law Center director and any other pre-law advisors you may have.

 Get working on University Program courses, especially challenging courses in potential major and minor fields.

 Join Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity.

 If you are serious about law school, getting good grades should be your highest priority. You need to commit yourself to adjust successfully to the rigors of college so you can begin building a record of academic excellence. Start now.

Sophomore Year

 Consult with the Law Center director and any other pre-law advisors you may have.

 Finish your University Program requirements.

 Explore challenging courses in potential major and minor fields. Consult with faculty in these fields for advice. Take electives in other areas to balance your education.

 Keep your GPA high. Don’t assume you can raise it significantly later with a few good semesters. It’s much harder than you might think.

 Attend all Pre-Law sponsored activities.

 Pick up the LSAT/LSDAS registration packet at the Law Center. Start familiarizing yourself with the format of the LSAT, fees, test schedules, LSDAS procedures, etc.

 Attend the LSAT Preparation Workshops offered by the Law Center. There is no excuse not to take advantage of this opportunity.

 Take the Practice LSAT offered by the Law Center. There is no excuse not to take advantage of this opportunity.

Junior Year

 Consult with the Law Center director and any other pre-law advisors you may have.

 If you are not certain of your major by now, this is the time to get serious.

 Attend all Pre-Law sponsored activities.

 Pick up the LSAT/LSDAS registration packet at the Law Center. Familiarize yourself thoroughly with its contents.

 Attend the LSAT Preparation Workshops offered by the Law Center. There is no excuse not to take advantage of this opportunity.

 Take the Practice LSAT offered by the Law Center. There is no excuse not to take advantage of this opportunity.

 Keep your GPA high. The grades you earn this year will be the most recent ones reported on your LSDAS report.

 Assess yourself critically, and try to form a realistic picture of your chances of being accepted at various law schools. If you have not taken several practice LSATs under timed conditions, this will be harder to do.

 Consider visiting nearby law schools. Often they sponsor special days for just this purpose, where you will also have a chance to visit a class in progress. Stay in touch with the Law Center for details.

 If you think you are ready, take the June LSAT.

Senior Year

 Consult with the Law Center director and any other pre-law advisors you may have.

 Do not succumb to “senioritis” – continue to study and apply yourself in all courses.

 Take the Fall LSAT if you have not taken the June exam. Do not wait until December. There are too many things that could go wrong.

 Make final decisions about law school selections. The Law Center has many materials available to assist you in this process.

 Send out law school applications, preferably before the semester break.

 In most cases, applying for financial aid involves a separate application process, usually after you have been accepted for admission.
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Some Advice From Law Schools on Pre-Law Education

“The School of Law does not prescribe any particular pre-law curriculum. The faculty strongly recommends, however, an undergraduate curricular program which provides a wide-ranging liberal education. Such a broad exposure is considered more advisable and useful than a narrow emphasis on vocationally-oriented courses. Particularly recommended are those courses which provide training in written and oral expression and which are intellectually and analytically demanding.” (University of San Francisco School of Law)

“Unlike the pre-medical curriculum that contains specific courses, some obligatory, there is no recommended set of pre-law courses. Enrolling in courses that are designated as part of a pre-law curriculum or major tends to be a less effective means of preparing for law school than enrolling in a diverse college program. While such pre-law courses may introduce you to broad legal principles and may present you with enough information to decide whether to continue with a legal education, they are rarely taught with the same depth and rigor as actual law school courses. In general, law schools prefer that you reserve your legal study for law school and fill your undergraduate curriculum with broad, diverse, and difficult courses.” (The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools)

“It is essential that the general program be challenging and that the student has become intellectually engaged in it. It is desirable that the applicant has studied a range of subjects, including history, mathematics, a natural science, literature, and economics or one of the social sciences. It is important that the range of studies have comprised certain basic subjects: the essentials of American History, enough mathematics to allow comprehension of statistics, the basic principles of logic and economics, cultural heritage – the European and preferably that of another culture as well. In addition, since law is above all an art of language, it is well for the student to have had a great deal of experience with writing and with close, intelligent criticism of this written work. A student whose undergraduate education has not enlarged his or her capacity to read, write, speak, and think and to see the relationship both among ideas and between ideas and their human contexts is poorly prepared for law school and even less prepared for professional service in the law. Virtually any major within a strong general program can be the ground for a good undergraduate education, if taught demandingly and if it leads to substantive mastery of a discipline, preferably a difficult one. There is no need for the major to be related to law; in fact, it is generally wasteful to study law as a preparation for the study of law. If we were to sum up our advice in a phrase, it would be ‘Study something interesting and hard.” (University of Michigan Law School)
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Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity
Phi Alpha Delta is an academic pre-law fraternity of students who are interested in careers in law. For information regarding Phi Alpha Delta, contact the Law Center or the Phi Alpha Delta office in the University Center, (517) 774-2620.

One Last Word
You do not have to be a backslapping extrovert to be a good lawyer. Many of the most able, successful attorneys are quiet, soft spoken people. Brains, training, learning, the ability to communicate, technical skill, and hard work are what count. In law school, your success will depend largely upon your ability to reason, your skill in writing, and your general background and training from high school and college – plus hard work.

Whatever you do at CMU, do it well. Good Luck!
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John Meixner
Law Center Director
Anspach 238
[email protected]

Central Michigan University, an AA/EO institution, is strongly and actively committed to increasing diversity within its community.
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